A Devotion of Lament for My Sin of Racial Injustice
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.
He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow.
He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood.
He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
Realizing we’ve been complicit in suffering, in oppression, or in perpetuating the myth of white superiority is a painful experience. Our first reaction might be defiant (i.e. “I’m not racist!”), but very soon, we feel trapped by our own guilt and shame, hemmed in by sin. We feel besieged and enveloped in tribulation, like the writer of Lamentations, as if God and the whole world are out to pay us back sevenfold for the wrong we’ve done.
I suddenly remember all the times I’ve laughed at a hurtful joke, the times I’ve looked at someone and felt fear simply because of the color of their skin or the way they spoke or dressed. The times I’ve wondered if someone was telling the truth about their struggle, or if they were just making excuses and not trying hard enough. The times I’ve ignored the automatic privilege and assumption of worth my light-colored skin affords me. When I visited the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and saw the photos on the walls of men, women, and children who were targeted by the state for prosecution and death because of their economic status or skin color, I felt the pain of every day I am complicit in the system that continues to perpetuate injustice and violence against bodies it deems unworthy. And the pain of the knowledge of sin is fleeting compared to the wounds of slavery, racial terror, mass incarceration, state-sanctioned violence, economic disparity, and so much more.
When we seek God, when our sin is exposed like a raw wound, we hurt. But the same bright light that burns will soon start to warm. In the pain of our sin, stay with God.
Healer God, help those of us who have been complicit in suffering to repent, and allow your light to expose and cleanse our sin. We beg for your forgiveness. Let us look to you for redemption and restoration, and let us follow in your footsteps of righteousness, mercy, justice, and shalom for all your creation.